Brian Johnson is not retiring. The AC/DC singer wants to make that very clear. Though the singer will be staying home when the band hits the road again starting May 7 in Lisbon, Portugal, with fill-in singer Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses, in a heartfelt statement released on Tuesday (Apr. 19), Johnson, 68, promised he’s not going anywhere.
“As many AC/DC fans know, the remaining shows for the 2016 AC/DC Rock or Bust World Tour, including 10 postponed U.S. shows, are being rescheduled with a guest singer,” Johnson wrote, not mentioning Rose by name, according to a statement issued by a spokesperson. “I want personally to explain the reason because I don’t believe the earlier press releases sufficiently set out what I wanted to say to our fans or the way in which I thought it should be presented.”
Johnson described how, on March 7, after a “series of examinations by leading physicians in the field of hearing loss,” he was informed that if he continued to play at large venues he risked “total deafness.”
“While I was horrified at the reality of the news that day, I had for a time become aware that my partial hearing loss was beginning to interfere with my performance on stage,” Johnson said. “I was having difficulty hearing the guitars on stage and because I was not able to hear the other musicians clearly, I feared the quality of my performance could be compromised. In all honesty this was something I could not in good conscience allow. Our fans deserve my performance to be at the highest level, and if for any reason I can’t deliver that level of performance I will not disappoint our fans or embarrass the other members of AC/DC. I am not a quitter and I like to finish what I start, nevertheless, the doctors made it clear to me and my bandmates that I had no choice but to stop performing on stage for the remaining shows and possibly beyond. That was the darkest day of my professional life.”
Johnson’s statement comes just four days after the Australian hard rock group announced that Rose would be stepping in for Johnson, after the currently hobbled Guns singer met with original guitarist Angus Young and other band members in Miami and Atlanta more than a month ago to discuss the possibility of subbing for Johnson. The band’s current Rock or Bust tour is slated to run through a June 12 date in Aarhus, Denmark, at which point Rose will pivot to GNR’s Not In This Lifetime summer stadium tour.
Johnson said that since that March meeting with doctors, he’s had several other consultations with his doctors and it seems that, for the near future, he will not be able to perform in arenas and stadiums where sound levels could put him at risk for “substantial hearing loss” and possible total deafness. “Until that time, I tried as best as I could to continue despite the pain and hearing loss but it all became too much to bear and too much to risk,” he said.
“I am personally crushed by this development more than anyone could ever imagine. The emotional experience I feel now is worse than anything I have ever in my life felt before. Being part of AC/DC, making records and performing for the millions of devoted fans this past 36 years has been my life’s work. I cannot imagine going forward without being part of that, but for now I have no choice. The one thing for certain is that I will always be with AC/DC at every show in spirit, if not in person.”
The worst part, Johnson said, was his fear that he has disappointed fans who bought tickets for the canceled shows and had supported him and the band for nearly four decades. “Words cannot express my deep gratitude and heartfelt thanks not just for the recent outpouring to me personally of kind words and good wishes, but also for the years of loyal support of AC/DC. My thanks also go to Angus and Cliff for their support.”
“Finally, I wish to assure our fans that I am not retiring. My doctors have told me that I can continue to record in studios and I intend to do that. For the moment, my entire focus is to continue medical treatment to improve my hearing. I am hoping that in time my hearing will improve and allow me to return to live concert performances. While the outcome is uncertain, my attitude is optimistic. Only time will tell.”